EA responds to ratings controversy over Dungeon Keeper

Many players have been sorely disappointed in the new take on “Dungeon Keeper.”

Electronic Arts has an illustrious history in the video game industry, from long-running sports franchises like the “Madden” football games to the fruitful period about a decade ago when it held licenses for major film properties like James Bond, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. However, the company’s plentiful experience hasn’t helped it to navigate the labyrinth of modern mobile gaming apps. That fact has been made evident by the latest EA game to hit the market – a strategy title called “Dungeon Keeper” – which, according to BBC News, has ignited a fair amount of criticism and controversy among players.

The roots of the fan criticism are twofold. First of all, EA’s mobile version of “Dungeon Keeper” is a modern re-imagining of the 1997 computer game of the same name. The original game, developed by a company called Bullfrog Productions and published by Electronic Arts, gave players the power to build, manage, and defend a dungeon. In the late 90s, taking inspiration from other popular strategy games like “Warcraft,” “Starcraft,” “Sim City,” and “Command & Conquer,” the game made quite a splash among players. Upon hearing that Electronic Arts would be bringing the classic “Dungeon Keeper” formula to modern mobile platforms, those players were excited to exercise their nostalgic feelings for the original game by playing a new version.

Unfortunately, many players have been sorely disappointed in the new take on “Dungeon Keeper.” At its heart, the game is still the same as it was 17 years ago, giving players control of small “imp” characters, who dig through dirt and rocks to create a sprawling dungeon. However, numerous reviewers  have noted that the imps work at the speed of the molasses most of the time and only speed up their work if the player has gems to offer. Gems are available via in-app purchase, meaning that a player can speed up the digging process at any time, but only if they are willing to spend real money. Some players have gone as far as to call the game “unplayable” without gems and pay-based upgrades – a fact that is contrary to the game’s advertised “free to play” structure.

For their part, the game developers at EA felt they were staying true to modern mobile game design, which largely encourages users to play games for a few minutes at a time and then wait for resources to replenish. In this case, players wait for imps to dig the dungeon. Still, despite EA’s feeling that “Dungeon Keeper” has a good balance between free play and pay play opportunities, most players haven’t been in agreement. Currently, the title has a “user review” rating of 0.3 out of 10 on Metacritic, while Peter Molyneux – the creator of the original “Dungeon Keeper” – has spoken out publicly against the lengthy wait times and aggressive in-game payment options that now plague the game.

According to Pocket Gamer, EA was also accused of trying to prevent the submission of negative ratings. The app reportedly asks users to rate their experience. Users who select a score other than five out of five stars are directed to a feedback form.

“We’re always looking at new ways to gather player feedback so that we can continue to improve our games,” an  EA spokesperson told Eurogamer about the ratings controversy. “The ‘rate this app’ feature in the Google Play version of Dungeon Keeper was designed to help us collect valuable feedback from players who don’t feel the game is worth a top rating.”

“We wanted to make it easier for more players to send us feedback directly from the game if they weren’t having the best experience,” the spokesperson added. “Players can always continue to leave any rating they want on the Google Play Store.”

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